Legal Aid

Strike disrupts criminal courts

PUBLISHED February 23, 2007

Strike action by criminal defence solicitors caused significant disruption to courts across the country last week, but the Gazette has learned that some firms agreed to provide cover for the Legal Services Commission (LSC) in affected areas.

Thousands of criminal defence solicitors either refused to attend police stations and magistrates? courts on Thursday and Friday last week, or worked to rule.

However, the LSC has confirmed that it worked with a number of criminal defence service providers, including Middlesbrough firm Watson Woodhouse and the Public Defender Service to provide police station cover in Hull, Leeds and Wiltshire.

Areas affected by the protests included Wales, Wiltshire, Hull, Lancaster, east Dorset, Morecambe, Scunthorpe, Preston,
Blackburn, Sunderland, Exeter, Plymouth and Leeds. There was also a high degree of support for the action in London, with several magistrates? courts in the capital affected.

Roger Peach, chairman of the Criminal Defence Solicitors Union, said: ?It?s up to solicitors to decide what to do, but I do hope they will bear in mind the interests of the criminal justice system.?

He said there would be an increasing tempo of demonstrations as solicitors sought to increase awareness of ?the impending destruction of the criminal justice system?.

A spokesman for the LSC said it thanked those solicitors who had helped to ensure vulnerable clients had access to solicitors. He added that if there were any further action, it would take steps to minimise the effect on clients and the wider criminal justice system.

Catherine Baksi